St. Lawrence County Planning Office
The following opinion piece was published in the Merwin Rural Services Institute's newsletter, North Country Local Government Newsletter 9/97.
What exactly is a subdivision?
Before being created, subdivisions are normally described on paper by what is known as a "plat". A plat is simply a plan for developing a piece of undeveloped property. Not all land division requires the approval of a plat. Local laws specify how many lots can be subdivided before a plat must be approved by a local planning board.
Recording subdivision plats
Subdivision regulation enforcement
The State Department of Health also plays a role in enforcement. Department of Health approval is necessary for any subdivision of five lots or more if the lots are five or fewer acres in size and are sold within a consecutive three year time period. Large subdivisions may require New York State Department of Environmental Conservation approval for sewerage.
What St. Lawrence County Has Done
The County Planning Board conducted a sample survey of RP 5217 forms processed in the County Clerk’s office. The RP 5217 is a state form that must be filed when property is subdivided and sold. The Planning Board examined the forms to see if any property transfers were carried out without regard for local subdivision regulations. The County Planning Board also produced a newsletter that gave background information on land subdivision. Included in this newsletter was a survey that asked local planning boards if they were aware of land being subdivided illegally in their municipalities. Finally, a news brief that listed all municipalities within the county that have subdivision regulations and specifics about each regulatory document was produced. The news brief was distributed widely to those involved in land subdivision (attorneys, developers, surveyors and real estate agents).
Local subdivision regulations have a purpose -- an orderly, efficient process for overseeing the division of land and providing needed infrastructure. If locally illegal subdivisions are occurring in your municipality, educational initiatives that provide a better understanding of local regulations may help to reduce the problem.
For more information on the St. Lawrence County initiative call Jason Pfotenhauer at (315) 379-2292.